After a few days to rest from the drama, the 2016 NCAA Tournament is back in full March Madness form. The first night of the Sweet Sixteen gives us two number one teams: Kansas against Maryland and Oregon facing Duke, while the day begins with two number three seeds against the number two teams: Miami playing Villanova followed by Texas A&M against Oklahoma.
#3 Miami vs #2 Villanova: The Wildcats are favored to win on paper, but in order for that to happen, they’ll need to slow things down and not give Angel Rodriguez (26 points per game in the tournament) and opportunity to run wild. The key to that is the dominance in the paint of Daniel Ochefu. It doesn’t have to be scoring, but he’ll have to dominate the boards and keep Miami and especially Rodriguez from attacking the rim. If Miami’s quickness and athleticism comes into play, the Hurricanes might actually make the Elite Eight for the first time in history.
#3 Texas A&M vs #2 Oklahoma: This game has a lot more to do with how Oklahoma fair offensively than anything the Aggies can do. Buddy Hield is scorching in the tournament (31.5 points, 55.9% from the field). However, defense can make a difference by doing what Northern Iowa did to the Aggies during the weekend: Keep Danuel House and Jalen Jones frustrated. For Texas A&M, besides their miracle finish, there’s the matter of slowing the tempo down, and getting Alex Caruso hot, which opens up a lot of things for them on the outside.
#5 Maryland vs #1 Kansas: The Terps haven’t been really impressive so far in the tournament, and will simply rely on Melo Trimble (21.5 ppg) and Jake Layman (18.5) to try and keep up with Kansas, who have incredible scoring depth and experience. It’ll be less about style, but simply getting stops on defense and their two top players staying hot. If Kansas get a good start and build up an early lead, it’s hard to see Maryland pulling enough fight to come back. Perry Ellis being dominant in the paint (21 points, 70.8% from the field in the tourney) should make things a lot easier, but it won’t be easy for him up against Diamond Stone and Robert Carter Jr.
#4 Duke vs #1 Oregon: An interesting finish to the day. Duke’s offense has clicked in the tourney, but against Yale and UNC-Wilmington. Grayson Allen and Brandon Ingram need to keep it up, but against a long, athletic Oregon team, their jump shooting ways might be more difficult to implement, and getting into offensive stagnation like they did in the previous games could be costly this time. Elgin Cook and Dillon Brooks can make the difference on both ends, especially with their defense on Ingram. Dominating the boards and not letting Duke get hot from the outside is the top priority for Oregon, the only remaining Pac-12 in the tournament.